Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 141, December 2009

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More Radiocarbon Dates from Claonaite

The last issue of this Newsletter reported that the bear skeleton in Portobello Promenade at 23,650 BP (21,700 BC) was Scotland's first Pleistocene bear. The Pleistocene encompasses all of the recent period of repeated glaciations and was redefined in 2009 as 2.588M to 12,000 BP. Older books have it starting about one million years ago and its growth is the result of improved dating evidence for the glaciations.

The other four sample dates have now arrived and contain a surprise. The bear ulna from Legless Highway was thought to be older than the main skeleton despite it being in better condition. It was extracted from a well consolidated layer of cobbles underlying the top-most sandy layer so had to predate the other bear, though I'd thought it wouldn't be much older - perhaps a few hundred years. In fact it has turned out to be very much older at 45,000 BP and this becomes Scotland's oldest bear bone. This tallies with prior dates since there are dates from reindeer in Reindeer Cave from around then.

The three dates for Antler Chamber were a reindeer antler at 12,100 BP (12,000 BC), and a bear humerus and a wild horse mandible both at about at 11,600 BP (11,500 BC). The horse is, I believe, the first appearance in Assynt and possibly the earliest in Scotland. These are all in the Windermere Interstadial (warm period) that followed the Late Devensian ice sheet before the Loch Lomond Readvance returned much of Scotland to glacial conditions after 11,000 BC for a thousand years.

Our challenge now is to see what information we can deduce from these dates about the history of Claonaite and the other entrances in Creag nan Uamh, that allowed all these animal remains to enter the cave. When did they open up and when and how were they sealed?

Thanks are due to Scottish Natural Heritage who funded these five radiocarbon dates. I hope they consider that the results prove it was money well spent.


Note:- The radiocarbon dates above are given uncalibrated as years Before Present where present is 1950 AD. The BC dates are after calibration for variations in the amount of C14 in the atmosphere.

GSG Annual Dinner 2009

This year's Annual Dinner was held in the Bath Arms Hotel, Cheddar and was universally acknowledged a great success - except for some members staying upstairs and kept awake by the local night life echoing though the windows. Forty-four members and friends attended the dinner where we had a room to ourselves complete with bar. Apart from there being only one barrel of Potholer, which was soon exhausted, I heard no complaints. Many members commented that the food was the best they'd had at a dinner for some time and excellent value for money.

There were several less-kent faces there with Monty (Jonathan Meelboom) persuading Philip Clark, a member from the early years of the club, to accompany him and surprise Goon. Our southern members were well represented, supplying almost half the bodies. Colin Coventry almost qualified as the most remote member having driven and flown from Durness, but was pipped at the post by Tangent (John Williams) who'd found himself back from Oslo for the weekend, signed up for the dinner, and then rejoined the GSG after a gap of almost six years.

There was a surprise additional presentation this year of the Plasticine Bear accepted by Ivan on behalf of the project team for all the work they'd put into negotiating with Historic Scotland and SNH and then extracting the bear and other bones from Claonaite Seven. The bear was lovingly crafted from blue plasticine by Annie Audsley and a comment that it looked more like a hippo is totally refuted!

The Gnome award was made this year to Derek Pettiglio (to quote Goon) "In recognition of his dedication to club work which exemplifies the commitment one would hope for from every member. He has - frequently solo - carried out searches and surveys of caves, stacking up achievements such as a survey of The Subway (Argyll) and, not least, his tenacious work above sump 6b in Claonaite, revealing Tibesti Chamber and possible routes to unknown cave perhaps beyond sump 6a. Derek has flown the flag for the GSG on several expeditions to places such as Spain, Lebanon and Meghalaya and faithfully supported the programme of Yorkshire trips. His many accomplishments are acknowledged in this award."


Tyger, Tyger, yearning bright
In the caverns of the night.
What of caving hand or eye
Could match thy fearful do or die?

In what distant deeps so damp
Burnt the fire of thine lamp?
Down what slim rope dare he aspire?
To excavate amidst the mire?

When the rest threw down their gear
And watered heaven with precious tear,
Our hero plunged with daring-do
Ever forcing caverns new.

So Tyger, Tyger, who art thou
Before whose exploits we must bow?
It's Derek P. (his name won't rhyme)
Who takes the Golden Gnome this time!

AL Jeffreys

It wasn't all eating and drinking. Several caves were descended. On Friday Jake (Graham Johnson) took Colin down Swildon's Hole while on Saturday Goon introduced Anna Ermakova and John Crae to the pleasures of Sump 1 while the rest of us waited and took photographs. Swildon's entrance series appeared to be moving with warnings about a new hole that had appeared in the floor. It also seemed to be suffering from bad air as everyone found it harder going than expected - a symptom of elevated carbon dioxide levels. See later for more about CO2 and the latest news on Swildon's. Also on Saturday several members descended Eastwater (see below) and Jake led Colin, Peter Dennis and Fraser Simpson around St Cuthberts.

On Sunday I left for the long drive north after paying the bill and leaving a handsome tip for the hard working staff. Thanks also to Peter (Snab) McNab for selecting and recommending the venue and to Stuart (StuL) Lindsay for organizing transport between the Belfry and the Hotel to deliver hungry members to the dinner and collect the debris afterwards!

The Dinner 2009 is over. At the AGM we vote on where to hold the 2010 edition. You do have a postal/email/telephone vote if you cannot attend the meeting. Please use it.

Eastwater on the GSG Annual Dinner Weekend

Well it's been a while since I did any caving on Mendip, and I'd always found Eastwater Cavern to be really rather grim and scary. The last time I went down Eastwater in fact was 10 years ago, and I thought I'd never go down again. But, this weekend and having got a lot of caving under my belt since then, I was game to go again. So we set off, a brave 7 of us, Ross, Annie, Roger, Kate and Fraser, Pippa and myself across the fields and into the darkness.

Leading the way was recently married Annie Audsley a good old Mendip lass, who knew the cave reasonably well. Eastwater being a cave of possibilities, also contains a fair few junctions and its not always easy to navigate when ones face is an inch from the ceiling! Eastwater was still dark, but the jovial atmosphere was fantastic and we all pushed pulled and squirmed our way along the slopey passages, down Dolphin Pot and to the bottom. I set up a lifeline on a Stop descender, in order to practice, as I have my Level2 LCLA day coming up in December. The climbs in the cave are not for those of a nervous disposition. Climbing with some rather epic potential for falling, in places where I would normally put a rope made me realise just why Mendip breeds such bold cavers. Half way down we heard a familiar voice and Brockers' smile appeared, so then there were eight of us!

A great sporting trip and I think Eastwater will be a regular on my trip list when I go to Mendip from now on!


Caving - Assynt

Campbell's Cave

Norman Flux spent a week in the hut in October - somewhat on his own I believe since it coincided with the annual dinner - in Mendip! He worked on the upstream retaining wall at Campbells. We really will have to dig there in 2010. It has been ready to be emptied out for over a year now!

Bog Hopping

The new Assynt 1:50,000 geology sheet shows more geology than the last. In late October Julian Walford and Peter Reynolds checked an expanse of limestone south of Loch Urigill starting from the south end of Loch Borralan. They crossed the bog to NC 265 065 where Google Earth shows a swarm of shakeholes. They found some sinks and resurgences then bog trotted back. One sink might be worth digging. It's 200m to the rising which is 10m lower.

Cnoc nam Uamh

Cairn Robinson (8 months) was introduced to Cnockers by Davie and Suzie, though only as far as the first chamber.


At the end of October Alison Jones and Mark Gallagher accompanied Preston White, Andy Peggie and Ivan to Antler Chamber and back again taking in the sights en route. In Two B's Chamber they helped replace some of the red and white tape with the BCA-approved orange contractors Glo-tape supported on BCA-supplied stainless steel supports. We'll intent to eventually replace all the existing tape and add more in places like Two B's Chamber where it is needed.

Meanwhile Roger and Annie Galloway investigated side passages near Belh Aven. They moved a few boulders and slid down into a few metres of nearly dry stream passage choked in both directions. Roger writes that "nothing looked particularly promising, but it was Annie's first UK virgin passage."

In November a team composed mostly of archaeologists - Vasiliki, Shelley, Rich and Philip - joined by Maarten Krabbendam of British Geological Survey were escorted by Ivan, Ross, Fraser and Derek to the Great Northern Time Machine and back. We had intended to go to Yorkshire, but that was the weekend Cumbria was under water, so instead we headed to a much drier Assynt. It wasn't completely dry and there was enough water cascading down Black Rift to give a true caving experience. Incidentally, Maarten's name appears on the new Assynt geology 1:50,000 sheet in the hut. He is part of the team revising the geological maps of the NW and is now working in the Ullapool area.

In mid-December we finally managed to get a team together to start extracting digging, damming and siphoning gear from the bottom of Rana. With Bob Jones and John Crowsley cycling, and Martin Hayes and John Crae unloading, Julian sent up grids, pipes, wood, kibbles and assorted rubbish. We finished off with 33-part filled kibbles of spoil. Because the drum at the bottom of the flume is broken Ivan had to assist most loads past it. He had to hang around in the shower (fortunately slight) at Diabolo Corner which at least washed all the mud off his oversuit!

ANUSC/Poll na Damoclean area

Before digging in Rana, Ivan and John went towards ANUSC to investigate a collapse reported by Chris Warwick. First they looked at the rocky tube in the stream bed that had been dug by Stuart Lindsay (GSG NL 140 p3) and GPS'd and photographed it. Chris's Collapse (now there's a name!) is part way up the obvious side valley before reaching ANUSC. The whole height of a section of the true right bank has slumped downwards into - something. It hasn't spilt out across the stream channel but seems to have disappeared down into what must have been a substantial void. It's not a place for digging right now but definitely something to be checked at regular intervals.

While in the area I took the opportunity of visiting Titian Pot - a small heather shrouded hole that I'd never have found if Tav hadn't GPS'd it. I hadn't intended to, but had to descend it to recover my Garmin GPS that had managed to bounce down to the bottom of this 3m deep pot.

John and I visited Poll na Damoclean and Toll Radain to see the work done there by the 2009 Mendip Migration before heading to Rana past another 'recent' collapse: a 10m diameter shakehole that in January appeared to have deepened by over a metre when found by Martin Hayes. This now looked quite stable, but again it is worth checking regularly. It is about 240m from the nearest part of Claonaite and anything there is more likely to head in the ANUSC direction. but who can tell?



The dig at Uamh an t-Sill has been called the Beer Cellar and has come to a halt for now. We need to find a different container for removing the spoil. Trying to pull a kitchen basin with a dodgy lid past awkward projections and up a 55 degree tube is a pain and not very productive! The other dig in the shakehole 40m away seems to be choked after 5m. No digging is being done here till we know what the Cellar is doing. The two poised granite boulders (GSG NL 140 p4) have been removed by a hand winch. Unfortunately the passage revealed is choked with gravel and needs digging!

On a more positive note, a hole near Wood Top Pot (looked at before) has been dug out and a large boulder was removed (hand winch again). This gave access to a deep tight rift with a stream in its floor. Upstream the rift is narrow and short only going for a couple of feet, where the stream enters at waist height and is definitely too tight. Downstream, at mid-height, a horizontal bedding can be entered for 3-4m. The continuing low bedding needs dug out.

CG 10 has had some gravel and stones removed to try and lower the sump. This has been probed feet first and the roof definitely goes upwards. As this is the presumed resurgence for Cave of the Woods it would make an excellent through trip if possible.

David Morrison

More news from David is that he entered a small unnamed rift above CG35 for 4 to 5m. Later he and Toby Speight cleared a small resurgence and could see 3 to 4m, but it was very tight and too cold to push at the time. Below Awkward Cave (CG16) a small chamber about 3m deep and 3m long was found with about 5m of passage and another small 2m chamber. Another extension was made in yet another dig with promise of a deep rift passage, but still too tight to enter.

The very latest news from David is that he and Toby went to survey the extension they'd made in Ivy Hole (GSG NL 139 p6, GSG Bull Oct 2009 pp 39-41) and found more. Toby discovered that the previous end wasn't an end but a corner. Twenty metres of passage, varying from hand and knees crawling to stooping, ends in a small sump with flood debris all the way to the roof. There is a small chamber visible up to the right, but it will need some hammering to enter. David knows of a small surface hole between the sump and its resurgence. If it was dug there is a chance of getting to the downstream end of the sump and clearing it out to give a through trip. That would give the advantage of not having to reverse the three tight squeezes on the way down. For those interested in exploring this new passage David assures me that the first squeeze is the worst and Toby points out that the very tall will have problems with a couple of the bends.


Incident at Rana 3 October 2009

In the beginning .. Robin, Matt and myself arrived at Rana equipped with Effie the casualty and a rucksac full of plastic bottles intended for rehydrating her. Our task, as advance party for the SCRO exercise was to position Effie at the top of Black Rift ready for the main party, and possibly to establish communications. We spent some time sorting out the rope on the bicycle winch and then lowered her down the main shaft. At that point I was positioned on the scaffold pole at the top of the main ladder so as to be able to guide the casualty down. Perhaps as an omen she didn't want to go: her arms snagged on the shaft.

I then took a Heyphone down the entrance shaft, left it at the bottom and had a look across a very wet looking traverse. Having worked out how to get Effie down the BBC pitch (clip on to traverse and guide the casualty down using the winch), I headed back up to the surface to speak to Robin and Matt to discuss lowering Effie further and possibly establishing a Heyphone station in 2As.

I reached the top of the fixed ladder.

Then... I found myself falling backwards into empty space.

I came to a rapid halt in a classic chimneying position with my feet against one wall and my back against the other. I noticed that there was a large drop below me and remember contemplating the possibility of chimneying down to safety. This period of contemplation was very short, because almost straightaway I realised that the fixed ladder was immediately to my left.

I don't remember getting back on to it, but clearly I did, and without delay.

I then exited the cave, shouting to the surface party (I think) that I had had a fall but was OK .

The aftermath.. Having got out of the cave in an adrenalin rush, reality rapidly set in. Rosemary had arrived and, probably with others, got me inside the bivvy tent. By this time the adrenalin rush had faded, I wasn't feeling so good and was aware of my right elbow and left side hurting. At some stage Alison arrived and examined me. After resting up for some time, I was dispatched back to the car park with Mark G and Andrew as support. Mark rang NHS24 for me and, once we had convinced them I did not need or want to go to the nearest A&E (ie Inverness) they arranged an appointment in Ullapool with a GP (who happened to be a friend of Alison and Mark).

The damage..An extensively bruised right arm. Cracked/broken ribs. A week (and counting) of uncomfortable nights and a course of anti-inflammatories and pain killers.

So. How did it happen? I am by habit a timid and cautious caver. On reaching the top of the fixed ladder I habitually stop, clip on, move on to the scaffold traverse, move on to the short ladder, unclip from the traverse line.

This time I was in too much of a hurry and can't have stopped at the top of the fixed ladder. I think I was in the process of clipping the traverse line with a krab in my right hand, moved too soon and slipped. I think there was a lack of concentration and that my mind was on establishing Heyphone stations and positioning casualties rather than simple safety.

I think I fell backwards with my right arm extended into the space between the ladder and the shaft wall. This space is quite constricted and that, together with my body position as I fell, probably helped restrict the fall. How far did I fall? I don't know: I wasn't looking too closely, but possibly about 2m.

Thanks.. Thanks are due to those who assisted on the surface and in the evacuation to the car park, the medical team (all 3 of them) and also to other SCRO members who enquired after my health, offered sympathy and didn't give me too hard a time for what was a stupid, self inflicted accident.

Bob Jones

Swildon's Hole Closed

Recent heavy rains seem to have undermined boulders in and around the entrance series of Swildon's Hole. When we visited it during the dinner weekend in October a new hole had opened up in the floor not far inside and the area has steadily (or should that be unsteadily?) become more unstable. Several groups have aborted trips and many clubs are rearranging their planned visits to other caves. The implications of a major movement while many groups are underground as well as the danger if the entrance moves while a party is traversing it has resulted in Swildon's being closed for a month. To quote the Council of Southern Caving Clubs website:

Following consultations, Robin Main the land owner, has decided to close Swildon's Hole for a period of one month to see how things settle down in the entrance. Please stay away for now and respect the landowner's decision. The latest information will be posted here as it becomes available.
Les Williams
Conservation & Access Officer
Posted 9/12/2009

The decision has resulted in much controversy. See the topic in the Forum on ukcaving.

It is possible that this is only the first period of closure and it'll be extended until inspections show that it has stabilized. Alison Moody, joint author of 'Swildon's Hole' wrote the following a few days before the decision to close it in response to a request for advice on a beginners trip.

Personally I would STRONGLY advise against it. Martin Grass and I carefully assessed the whole area on Sunday. A large section of the entrance series is potentially very unstable, extending from the base of Showerbath Chamber to virtually the entrance grill. Many large boulders are being undermined and some of the rocks in the roof/walls of the entrance chamber may also be moving. Below Showerbath, heading down the Wet Way towards The Well the streamway is full of mobile rocks and debris from the recent collapses.

At present it is impossible to determine exactly what is stable and what is holding up what up. Further collapses are extremely likely and I feel that a serious accident or even a fatality could easily happen in this area. In the last few days I know of at least 4 parties (some of which were extremely experienced cavers) that aborted their trips after deciding that the entrance series was too dangerous to proceed. A very unpleasant scenario would be when exiting from a trip to find that a collapse had occurred while underground.

Some clubs have already advised their members to avoid Swildon's for the time being and I think that this is an extremely sensible policy - much better safe than sorry.

My personal opinion is that people should go elsewhere for the next few months - there are plenty of other caves. In Swildon's, nature should be allowed to take its course over the winter and in drier conditions next Spring a proper assessment can be made and stabilisation work carried out.

Alison Moody

Bad air in Cuckoo Cleaves

Early this summer, a trip into this cave was halted near the entrance when high levels of carbon dioxide made their presence felt. The level was probably over 6% since oxygen was down from the normal 20.9% to about 15%. The cave was closed and later the solid steel lid on the vertical concrete entrance pipe was replaced by a grill. That and cooler weather has reduced CO2 to what is termed a 'more sensible' level - about 2%. This cave in common with quite a few other Mendip caves is known for high CO2 levels especially in warm weather when vegetation is growing and roots are pushing CO2 into ground water.

Scottish Results

We've started taking the SCRO's GasAlertMicroClip gas detectors into caves and mines to build up some knowledge of the levels of the various gases we might expect to see underground. They measure O2, CO, H2S and inflammables. In Rana Hole and Claonaite Seven the through draught kept oxygen at the normal 20.9%. In Philpstoun Oil Shale Mine the oxygen level dropped in the surface depression to 20.2%, while down in the mine, 10m from the entrance, the level had dropped to 19.6%. Alison Fuller-Shapcott had brought along a Draeger X-AM 700 which measured carbon dioxide as well as the other gases. It verified the oxygen levels of the SCRO detector and reported 0.8% CO2 in the surface depression and 1.58% inside the mine. In caving terms these levels are not a problem though even the surface level exceeds the HSE working day limit of 0.5% CO2.

Demolition of a Fife Cave

During walks through the Lomond Hills in Fife I visited John Knox's Pulpit several times. This was a small shelter cave (NT 189 058) in a sandstone outcrop on the north side of the steep sided Glen Vale about 5.5 km SW of Strathmiglo. I say 'was' because Alex Latta when perusing the BGS site (see Internet Caving this issue) found a series of photographs recording its 'demolition'.

The cave partly collapsed when a slender hourglass shaped pillar supporting its western end collapsed in early 2004. The images on the BGS site show this left large blocks of sandstone precariously poised above the valley and the track through it. The council decided demolition was necessary and on the 20th May 2004, as cameras clicked, explosives were detonated and John Knox's Pulpit became history.

You can see all 19 images in the photographs area of the BGS site by searching for 'John Knox's Pulpit'. I find it surprising that we didn't hear about the demolition at the time. There couldn't have been much publicity about it and possibly other more momentous events were happening that day.

Appin Access

Ivan recently realised that the agreement we signed with the Forestry Commission in 2006 to allow vehicular access to the Appin forests ran out in 2007. A new agreement is being set up for Glen Stockdale and Glen Duror. Glen Creran is now in a different district and since the forest tracks there are not be of much use to us for the present known caves I'm not going to ask for permission. I can always do so if caves are found further up the glen.


Animal Bones in Scotland

I am reviewing the finds of animal bones in Scottish caves in order to produce a baseline survey of the type and age of any bones which have found in the past, to analyse the spread of animals types across Scotland and to assess the chances of more bones being found. For this, it is necessary to catalogue as many as possible of the bones found by cavers and archaeologists in Scottish caves. Any and all information that GSG members can supply will be welcome.

Although this review mainly concentrates on animal bones, human bones are not excluded (human remains likely to be recorded by archaeologists with associated middens and spoil heaps containing other animal bones). While it would be best to have all the information neatly categorized by cave, location, number of bones, type of animal, when found & by who, age of bones, etc., (even a simple reference to ?animal bones? could be useful, if it can be attributed to a specific cave or group of caves). Information should be e-mailed to John Crae at

Do not worry if you think someone else may already have mentioned any specific find. I would still like to hear from everyone. However, to avoid unnecessary duplication, where referring to previous archaeological digs or cave surveys, please send just the reference not the full report. I will follow up all the references as time permits.

John Crae

Free Mapping for your Mobile Phone

Contour mapping is available free from the NASA satellite mapping of the world and was used to produce the map in an earlier article (NL139 p10). Details on this will appear in a later Newsletter.

OpenStreetMap include this as one option (They call it "Cycle Map"!) in their free mapping:

A small piece of freeware called 'apemap' exists: which can be loaded onto your PC desktop and permits OpenStreetMap mapping (modest areas -e.g. 1000 sq km) to be downloaded to a modern mobile phone: i.e. one with mapping & GPS capabilities. Apemap also allows tracks and waypoints to be displayed. Particularly useful for foreign parts where no mapping is available otherwise, or if you don't want to buy the inordinately expensive OS mapping in the UK. But for those whose command of the German language leaves something to be desired(!), I would recommend Google Translate.

And you must know exactly where you wish your map centered in Lat(N) Long(E) - Google Maps is good for that. Just put in your location and search - try 58.053, -5.029 - should get you the hut.,+-5.029+%28Insert+text+here%29&iwloc=A&hl=en

Julian Walford

2010 Meets and Events

See the events page.

National Caving Conference

The Group has been donated collection of leaflets, posters and programmes for the various Speleological Conferences that have been held in the UK since 1936. For recent conferences the following programmes are missing:

1977 - Sheffield [not to be confused with the International conference, also at Sheffield in 1977],

1982 - Bristol, 1983 - Liverpool, 1984 - Lancaster,

1990 - Manchester, 1991 - Manchester, 2008 - Otley

I know members of the Group attended most of these conferences, and if anyone still has copies of the programmes, would they be willing to donate them to the library in order that we might assemble a complete set?


Membership News

Five more members since September, but only two of them really new since three have returned after gaps of several years:-

New Members

Tony Audsley, Mark Gallagher, Mike Palmer, Alistair Simpson, John {Tangent} Williams.

New Addresses

Ross Davidson, Anna Ermakova, Jackie Sutherland, Julian Warren.

Other Changes

Peter Hardyman, Tel work; Mary Harrison, email; David Morrison, Tel Home.

The J'Rat Digging Award

Stuart McManus and other Mendip cavers have organised an annual digging award in memory of J'Rat, one of the most dedicated diggers UK caving has known. This'll be awarded each year in late November. This year it was awarded jointly to the Wessex and UBSS on 21st November. They hope to arrange a diggers' dinner in the Hunter's Lodge Inn for November 20th 2010. More details will be provided nearer the time The rules are as follows:

  1. J'Rat's Digging Award is to be given to the club(s) or group who discover and survey the longest length of passage in one cave. (This excludes claiming existing cave passage through digging a connection etc.).
  2. The cave passage discovered and surveyed must be greater than 50 metres in length.
  3. In the unlikely event of a tie, the club(s) or group who can provide documented evidence of the greatest number of diggers to have worked in the cave to achieve their discovery will be considered the winner.
  4. The cave passage discovered and surveyed must be either on Mendip or the surrounding area within Somerset or in Scotland (two of J'Rat's favourite digging areas).
  5. The competition will run from 1st November until the 31st October each year.
  6. Claims for the Award must be lodged officially with the Judges, with a closing date of the 31st October each year.
  7. The presentation will take place at the Hunter's Lodge Inn in Priddy on the nearest Saturday to the 21st November (J'Rat's birthday) with the club(s) or group being awarded 'J'Rat's Digging Award' for that year.
  8. The winners will be entitled to have their club's or group's name and the length surveyed inscribed on the J'Rat's Digging Award Plaque, which will hang in the Hunter's Lodge Inn at Priddy.

Elphin Caving Centre

Two events to report. First was a joint Carol and Rosemary birthday celebration. They had attained a significant age - probably 21 - and sadly had to restrict invitees to a favoured hut-full. After treating everyone to a well lubricated buffet they cut a bat cake created by Rosemary's elder daughter Catherine.

The Xmas Soiree on December 12th was enjoyed by the 15 members and friends present. Peter did a great job of stuffing everyone to satiety. The gammon with plum sauce and roasted potatoes and vegetables was particularly fine. Peter's portion control is improving - there wasn't as much food left over for the next day as after previous dinners. Peter charged everyone a tenner with the excess over cost going to his favourite charity, Water Aid, as part of their Taste for Life Event.

Hut Water Supply

The water supply in Elphin continues to give Scottish Water cause for concern due to the variable presence of cryptosporidium oocysts. Although the risk is relatively small and I think it's pretty unlikely that anyone would pick up cryptosporidiosis, you may wish to take the precaution of using bottled water to drink or to boil it first. Although cryptosporidiosis is not of serious concern to a healthy adult the symptoms (extreme wind, smelly diarrhoea, that sort of thing) can persist for a fortnight. We have recently installed an additional UV treatment phase, but haven't fully tested it yet. If you want more details let me know.

Peter Dowswell

Note:- Ultra violet light deactivates the oocysts by scrambling their DNA. UV effectiveness is reduced if the water isn't clear as frequently happens after heavy rain. So it isn't possible to guarantee that the risk has been reduced to zero.

Hut Fettling

It is now over 15 years since the hut was opened and the latest parts to need replacing are the door handles in the toilet and shower area. Those fitted in 1994 had plates made of pressed aluminium and holes are wearing oval and springs are poking though the sides. I've bought new shiny sturdier handles and fitted three at the Xmas dinner weekend. I expect to finish the job at New Year. I'm also fitting vacant/engaged indicator bolts on the toilets.

The painting of Suilven has been moved into the conservatory to make way for pictures of J'Rat and Pete Ireson assembled by Goon. We didn't want to hang them in the conservatory for fear they'd fade in the bright Sutherland Sun.


Assynt News

Scottish Cave & Mine Database

Having attempted to produce a Scottish Cave Database some years ago, and not satisfying anyone with its workings, I decided this time to produce the basic data in a simpler spreadsheet format that could either be used in that form or exported to a custom designed database as required. Various data sources are used and there is some obvious duplication and variation in NGR position (especially with pre-GPS'd positions and old maps). Some sites have been included based on private communications and without, as yet, any further details. This is usually either for a matter of historic record and/or to assist in GSG's use of the database with the Emergency Services (see below).

Users should be aware that an entry does not imply that anything still exists (or, in a few cases, ever existed!). In 1964 GSG made a well documented visit to Queenzieburn Limestone Mine. On re-visiting the site in 2008 there was nothing on the surface to show a mine ever existed and the local farmer had no knowledge of an open mine on his land. I've worked on the principle that it's better to record a name and possible position than to not record it at all. A (non-universal) rule of thumb could be that the more accurate an NGR the better chance there is that something still exists & that someone has visited it and recorded the visit.

For obvious reasons that they're not nice places to get into, coal mines, in general, have not been included.

I have tried to record the following data for each site, where it exists. In many cases, however, the data is incomplete and I'd welcome information and feedback for inclusion in future releases.

Name: Only general rule used is that if the site is in the Gaidhealdachd and has a Gaelic name then that name will be used and any English name(s) will be considered as alternative. Elsewhere the English name will be used. Any 'Cave .' or 'Uamh ..' in a name will follow the principle name after a ','. To aid sorting all un-named sites will be started with an '*' e.g. '*Cave', '*Rockshelter' etc.

Alternative Name 1-5 Only Fingal's Cave required this number of alternative names but if ignored some purist would be bound to point the omission out.

County: Scottish counties rather than Regions have been used as they are familiar and lend themselves to searches based on older maps. However one or two sites close to county boundaries may have ended up in the wrong county.

Area: Caving areas such as Traligill, Knockan, Appin etc.

Origin: Rough division into natural or man-made features.

NGR Square: Standard NGR two letter designation eg NC

Easting/Northing 100km digit: Replaces need for the above NGR Square if added to Easting and Northing as the leading digit. Can be found printed in smaller type at corners of OS maps eg 237000m

Easting/Northing: Standard NGR position

Accuracy: All Easting/Northing positions have been entered in a (5+5) 10 digit format but the accuracy figure will indicate how many digits should be used. Values 6, 8 & 10 are used, the bigger the accuracy number the more accurate a position, the smaller the more trailing zeros have been added.

Classification: Cave, sink, rockshelter etc. Very much based on the name or documentation source being used. Accuracy not 100% guaranteed!

Altitude/Length/Depth: Again very much based on the documentation source being used and subject to change.

Commodity: The Commodity column is so named for want of a better descriptor! In the case of a natural feature it'll refer to the local geology & in the case of a mine or quarry, to whatever was/is being mined or quarried.

Source: Information source, documentation or other. A separate Source worksheet gives details

1ry/2ndy: This is an attempt to differentiate between a primary & secondary source of information, in general the primary source will either be the most accurate position and/or the best description of a location. Primarily for Emergency Service use as it enables duplicate entries to be weeded out.

Reference/Page: A separate worksheet identifies Reference abbreviations. All documents should be held in GSG Library.

Remarks/Comments: Any other relevant information.

The spreadsheet is currently in a Microsoft Office 2000 Excel format but can be used directly with Open Office software in Linux for those using a sensible PC operating system. There are currently about 1500 entries in the database but this will undoubtedly increase as past copies of Bulletins, Logbooks & Newsletters are entered and Jim Salvona's shoulder gets better.

Anyone wanting a copy of the database should contact me directly and I'll add them to the mailing list for future versions as released.

Dick Grindley

Internet Caving

Alex Latta spotted a musical slide show of the Allt nan Uamh at It consists of 12 minutes of panning and zooming of still photos from the bottom of the glen to beyond the Bone Caves set to music. Also by the same author is a 4 minute production on Smoo Cave including a video clip of the waterfall. Alex also found a video of two lads exploring Sawney Bean's Cave (NGR:-NX 09930 87610).

The British Geological Survey at their OpenGeoscience site are making available geology maps, a massive collection of photographs and much more all free-of-charge for non-commercial private study, research and educational activities.

The geology of Great Britain at 1:625,000 can be viewed in your browser overlaid on an aerial or streetmap type view. You can also download a KML file of the geology at 1:625,000 scale for use with Google Earth. Another KML file shows you the last 30 days of UK earthquakes - seven when I looked right now. There a lot to view, but I was rather disappointed when I looked through the images of Assynt that there was almost nothing featuring the caves.

Julian Walford reports that Weather Online has updated their web site recently and it includes high resolution radar images, better than the free Met Office site. &CREG=sco

With the 24 hour loop feature one can get a pretty good picture of the localised rainfall in a caving area. And access to radar images every 5 minutes for the previous two days is also possible.

Grampian Speleological Group home page